September 5, 2020 Subject:
Travis Bean and Mu-Tron III
This is a fascinating recording in the sense that it represents the earliest recording I've been able to find with Jerry Garcia using the Mu-Tron III auto-wah/envelope filter from Musitronics. To add to the interest here, Jerry was playing a Travis Bean TB1000 and a Travis Bean TB500 in 1976 during this time frame (you can see a picture of the TB1000 on the cover of "Don't Let Go".) So here we have Jerry likely playing a Travis Bean through the Mu-Tron III. This would have been before he started having his guitars heavily modified to run the effects controls through the guitar.
A TB1000A guitar that probably belonged to Jerry was auctioned through Bonhams in 2007 and sold for $300,000. That guitar, Serial Number 715, has a small switch between the tone and volume controls, which is evidence that Jerry had it modified, but it was not modified as extensively as his later guitars and it's hard to pinpoint when the TB1000A was modified. The pictures of Jerry's TB1000A from mid-1976 do not have the small switch and look unmodified. It's likely the unmodified TB1000A or TB500 is what is being played on this recording.
For reference there is a video of Garcia playing an unmodified TB1000A on 6-19-76, a video of him playing a TB500A on 8-4-1976, and a video of him playing a TB500 on 9-15-76. This recording falls in this time frame.
The TB1000A has humbucker pickups and the TB500 has single coils. Jerry favored the single coils and his later Mu-Tron III tone was likely improved with the single coil pickups.
One of Jerry's Mu-Tron III pedals (possibly this one) sold in 2015 on Reverb for $6500.
Jerry's tone with the Mu-Tron in this recording is rudimentary compared to the sounds he was getting out of it in 1977. Contrast this with the Dancin' and the first live Estimated Prophet from 2-26-1977. Quite an evolution in tone in just 6 months.
This recording marks the beginning of a change in Jerry's tone to that hallmark Mu-Tron III sound which really started taking off in 1977.
An epic version of Jerry's use of this effect is evident on the 5-5-78 recording of Estimated Prophet.